cover image Empire of the Eagle

Empire of the Eagle

Andre Norton, Susan Shwartz. Tor Books, $22.95 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85169-9

An exotic blend of Roman, Hindu and more distant lore informs this second collaboration (after Imperial Lady ) between Grand Master Norton and Shwartz. After the crushing defeat at Carrhae of the Roman proconsul Crassus in 43 B.C., the victorious Parthians lead a captive remnant of one legion, along with its eagle standard, to the distant eastern Lands of Gold. As dispirited captives, a contingent of Ch'in and merchants struggle through the desert, a friendship develops between the tribune Quintus and Ch'in leader Ssu-ma Chao, who allows the Romans to win back their self-respect by rearming them to fight bandits. After one particularly dangerous stretch, Quintus encounters a strange old man, Ganesha, and the beautiful Draupadi who, much to Quintus's perturbation, claims that he is the reincarnation of her long-gone hero husband. As Ganesha and Draupadi join the larger group on its journey to ever greater dangers, Quintus learns they are being pursued by Black Naacals, immortal members of a sorcerous order. The doubting Quintus must master ancient powers to save his followers and others threatened by the ancient evil. Norton ( The Crystal Gryphon ) and Shwartz ( The Grail of Hearts ) weave a curious and convincing tale melding otherworldliness and dire reality. (Nov.)